Patient Stories

Ashley’s Story

I first began going to Dr. Scinta in the summer of 2008. I had other family members who had gone to her and had done well. At the time I had insulin resistance, thyroid problems and other health issues. But for me the biggest thing was being 14, overweight and having to go to high school. I was very self -conscious about how I looked and didn’t feel like I fit in.

Dr. Scinta put me on a program that fit me. I started to have steady weight loss with the gradual changes I made. Right now, I have lost almost 50 pounds and am five pounds from my goal. I have a new boyfriend, and I am getting good grades at school. Believe it or not, I am actively participating on the swim team (in the past- no way would I even think of wearing a swim suit in public!) I also think that with the life changes I have made I understand what it will take to keep the weight off. I like the person I have become. Thank you to everyone who helped to make it happen for me.

– Ashley M. Smith

Ashley’s mother was fed up with diets, doctors, and alternative medicine when she brought her 14-year-old daughter to my clinic. Sarah was a wife, mother of three and part-time substitute teacher, and she thought she had exhausted all possibilities in helping her then 210 pound daughter lose weight.

“We sort of came across you by accident,” Sarah reminded me. “I was actually calling a hypnotist to get information because I was trying to check out all of my avenues. She actually referred me to you.” Sarah began seeking alternative ways to help her daughter lose weight after she realized that her pediatrician did not share the same concern for her daughter’s size as she did.

“I remember when Ashley was 85 pounds. Her friends were 25 pounds lighter, and when I saw her pediatrician, he said, “Let’s just focus on trying to maintain her weight and letter her grow into it. “ He also told me that Ashley needed to exercise more. This didn’t make any sense to me because she was already involved in swimming lessons, soccer, and doing karate three times a week. “

At her pediatrician’s recommendation, Ashley saw the staff nutritionist who referred her to a Diabetes Center in Syracuse. The center said they couldn’t really treat Ashley because she wasn’t diabetic. They gave Sarah recommendations during the one-time consultation, but Sarah was already implementing all of the things the center told her to do: eat more vegetables, drink lots of water and stay active.

Frustrated, Sarah tried a wellness center for nutrition response testing. There, she saw an herbalist who ran through a series of tests where he would have Ashley push against his hand while he pressed a part of her body. If he felt the response was weak, he would put herbs on that part of her body, and have her push again- convincing Ashley that the herbs had actually made her stronger. Those same herbs were packaged as supplements to take by mouth. After spending a small fortune on the herbs, Ashley refused to take them because she said they tasted nasty. Another battle was lost.

Three months went by, and Ashley’s weight kept increasing. Desperate for a solution, Sarah found a hypnotherapist. The hypnotist listened to Sarah’s story with great concern, but when she heard of Ashley’s young age, she explained that hypnosis would likely not work for her. She then referred Sarah to our clinic.

When we met, Sarah had a lot of questions. Feeling that no one had been willing or able to help her daughter, she was understandably skeptical. I tried to reassure Sarah that with bariatric medicine, some of the blood work is in excess of what would normally be ordered for a child, and 80 % of the time, we will find a treatable cause of the inability to lose weight. Sure enough, initial blood work revealed that Ashley had new onset hypothyroidism, significant insulin resistance, and a severe Vitamin D deficiency. Sarah was surprised, and revealed that insulin and vitamin D levels had never been checked in the past on her daughter. Ashley’s fasting glucose was in the upper limits of normal, but Sarah didn’t recall discussing these numbers with either doctor. “They both just said that her glucose was normal.” My eyes then moved down to the abnormal thyroid tests.

“Do you have thyroid problems in the family?” I asked.

“In fact we do. My mom, her only sister and I are all on thyroid supplements.”

I probed further. “Did the pediatrician or physicians at the diabetic center comment on Ashley’s thyroid levels?”

“The pediatrician just wanted to follow it, because he said he didn’t want to commit Ashley to medicine for the rest of her life,” she explained.

“And the diabetes center?”

“They said they might need to order additional tests but didn’t think it was a problem,” she answered.

We did run additional tests at our office which showed that Ashley was making antibodies to her thyroid, a condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. A thyroid ultrasound was performed and confirmed this diagnosis.

Ashley was started on Riomet (a liquid form of Metformin), prescription strength Vitamin D, and a thyroid supplement. Immediately, Sarah noticed that Ashley’s energy and appetite changed. She became full before finishing her meals, and Sarah no longer had to spend ten minutes every morning trying to rouse her daughter out of bed. “She is even up early on weekends,” Sarah informed me on her third visit, “I can’t remember the last time that happened.”

One school year later, Ashley is now down to a healthy weight, and has grown two inches. Her confidence is reflected in her beautiful smile. At 5’ 6” and 155 pounds, Ashley is truly breathtaking. Looking at her now, you would never know she struggled for six years with obesity.

I can’t help but feel sorry for families like Ashley’s. They are trying so hard to do things right, but they’re not getting the answers from the medical community that they know are out there. It is not due to an inadequate knowledge base or training of medical providers. Unfortunately, the obesity epidemic has caught us by surprise, and in many cases the science has not kept pace with the epidemic. Frustrated parents pour money into expensive and unproven alternative strategies in a desperate attempt to help their child. Some even resort to bariatric surgery procedures- dangerous, wrought with complications, and unproven in children.

Fortunately, the number of bariatricians is rising. The American Society of Bariatric Physicians is working diligently to increase awareness of the sixty year old subspecialty of bariatric medicine, and the highly trained non-surgical obesity experts that it produces. The Obama administration has pledged, through the Let’s Move! campaign and Childhood Obesity Task Force initiatives, to solve the problem within a generation. Eloquent studies have been published that detail the unique issues of the pediatric population, and many more are planned for the near future. Meanwhile, parents like Sarah work relentlessly to find a solution for their child. Through research and onsite training at Medical Weight Loss of NY, I hope to increase the supply of specialists, and arm them with useful, evidence-based tools to run an effective clinic. In this way, we can all help parents like Sarah find solutions they need.

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1 Comment

  1. I am struggling with the same issues with my 11 year old daughter. She is definitely tall for her age, but she weighs as much as a grown adult. The last several months she has seemed to gain weight for no reason at all. She has already grown out of her school clothes for this year, her pajamas, coat and other clothing. She can’t wear the cute princess clothes from the Disney store and she is just a young girl. I have tried everything I know to do. She doesn’t think she is pretty or that she fits in with anyone. It breaks my heart. We are visiting a dietitian in the morning and I hope to receive some help and insight to put her on the path for a healthy, happy life.

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